Internationational Women’s Day 2018

Gender Equality

I came from a generation where my mom stayed home and took care of us.  There were six kids in my family and I was lucky to have my mom at home.  Most of my friends’ moms were at home too.  

It was a different time then.  My mom put lipstick on and fixed her hair and had us all looking halfway decent when my dad came home at 5:30 every night. My dad was an entrepreneur who was president of a food brokerage corporation. They made me go to an all-girls private high school.  I didn’t want to go.  It’s probably the best thing that ever happened to me. Thirty years after I graduated, the principal told me that they graduated women who were leaders. She was referring to me.

Here’s the truth, I didn’t want to work for someone else because I didn’t want to be limited. I worked for other people enough to see that there wasn’t actually a future for women as an employee. If there was a choice between a man or a woman for advancement, the men were it.  Then there was sexual harassment.  If it wasn’t me, it was my friends. It wasn’t if, it was when.  You just had to know how to handle it without getting fired.

Cathy Sykora

Cathy Sykora

Founder, The Health Coach Group

Cathy helps health coaches build and maintain successful businesses that improve the lives of others.

Women Entrepreneurs

My dad didn’t believe that women belonged in business. It wasn’t him, it was the culture of the time. My three brothers took over his business. My businesses started from scratch – and without the support that my brother’s had.  It made me strong. Before he died, my dad told me how proud he was of me.

I still had the desire to live the life my mom did.  That’s how I was brought up. When I graduated from high school, I wanted a husband and babies.  After that happened, I found that I wanted more.  My family stayed my priority, but I worked the heck out of my business because I loved it.  My business not only makes money, it gives me a creative outlet, the ability to help others and freedom.

The fields I’ve worked in were fields that were pretty much ruled by women.  First Interior Design, and now, health coaching. So I can’t speak to all entrepreneurial fields, but since I’ve been the boss – there is no gender bias or preferential hiring or advancement practices.

If you’re in business for yourself, as a woman, you are a minority in the eyes of the government and get preferential treatment.  The government procurement departments are required to do a percentage of their purchases from  “women-owned business”.

In the last 40 years, women HAVE moved forward.  If you look at the numbers, though, not enough.  There is still a huge gap in pay, there is still sexual harassment in the workplace and there are still more men in management positions than women.

Women Entrepreneurs

One more thing, women are often as much to blame as men.  We are in a funny place in time where there is a lot of confusions and conflict in what we want for ourselves.  Speaking for myself, I would like to be taken care of – that’s never been a thing for me, I was the breadwinner and for the last 20 years my husband took care of me by doing the laundry, grocery shopping, and cooking.  About 10 years ago I reconciled myself to that and appreciate it.  So how can I want to be taken care of and run a company and be the boss of everyone?  It’s gender conflict that comes from the culture I was raised in.

Family loves you, but still in 2018, has many different expectations than what is realistic.  The women who stayed home with the family work hard – really hard, but those same women (relatives) are tolerant of the male family members who need to take a timeout for a conference call, but resentful when we do.  It’s that conflict and confusions in changing roles that is unintentional, but frustrating.

I travel by myself often.  A couple years ago I was checking in at the airport to go to England.  I gave the woman at the counter my travel documents.  She said, “your husband would be so proud of you, doing this all by yourself.”  REALLY?  I do it for him when we travel together.

Then there’s the church.  I pay the bills, carry the stress and responsibility that my dad used to for our family, plus I do all the school things, but I sit in church and listen to the priest tell women to bow to the wishes and needs of our husbands.  I laugh, but I don’t think it’s funny at all. When roles and expectations are that deeply ingrained, it’s amazing we’ve moved this far forward.

I started my business because I didn’t want to send my kids to daycare.  So, like my mom, I stayed home with my kids.  Unlike my mom, I ran a business at the same time.  It’s a different world and if you’re not careful, sometimes the kids suffer.  I was only able to do it for a very short period of time without getting help.  If I picked between going to a hockey tournament and staying home to clean the house – I hired someone to clean the house.  As an entrepreneur, I could hire people to come to my house and babysit with me there.  There are more options for entrepreneurs when these conflicts in needs come up.

My answer for women;  strategically plan your life.  Be in business for yourself, Employ women, empower yourself if no one else will. In this world, we have so much potential, especially with the whole world opened up to us with the internet.  Do it for yourself, and do it for all the “women to be”.  Set an example for the next generation.  I guarantee my kids and grandkids don’t have any of the limiting beliefs that my generation and my mom’s generation had.


Even Better

Now that my kids are grown, I have another issue – global family.  My son moved to England with his wife and baby.  I was in Omaha.  If I were working for someone else, I’d have to wait for time off.  As an online entrepreneur – I can indulge my motherly (grandmotherly) desires to be close and visit them without sacrificing my job or pay.

What is my point?  Women, please take advantage of every tool and change in the world right now.  Don’t ask for permission, take what you need.  Being an entrepreneur can put you in a power position to write your own check, design your own life, and step away from the existing inequality in the world by gender.  Not only can you do this for yourself, but you can also do it for others by creating the atmosphere in the workplace that we want and deserve.

This article isn’t just for women with children.  As a human being, whatever your priority is, is important.  Being an entrepreneur enables you to do anything for yourself without the constraints that society and culture put upon us.

If you liked what you read, please share this post with other women.


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  1. Beverley Golden

    I grew up in the same with the same generational beliefs that you did, Cathy! Although my mother didn’t work when I was very young, when my father died, she had to go to work to support myself and my brother. I always wanted to be a business person, not a housewife who had to worry about what to make for dinner each night or cleaning a house. I left high school as soon as I could and went to study Business/Marketing, one of only ten women in a class of 400! I’ve always been adventurous when it comes to business and rarely stayed in one place more than three years. I started several businesses during my working life, one was a successful video rental chain (with partners) in the early days of home video. My former husband was great at looking after our daughter and doing the household chores. This was very unusual at the time too. By the time my partners bought me out, we had franchised 30 locations. I agree with you and your encouragement for women to revisit their beliefs and to stretch themselves to do the things and pursue the dreams they have for themselves and not to wait…

  2. Sharona ES

    I remember a time when even going for a degree many believe that women were doing to just find a mate…we still have so much to do, equal pay for one…

  3. Candess M. Campbell

    Love this blog Cathy! I saw the inequality of power early on and was on the front line of the feminist movement here in Spokane in my early 1920s. I enjoyed the company of the female movers and shakers in Spokane. I still have some of the newsletters and books from the Pasttime Bookstore when I helped Marion Moos clear it out as it shut down. It is so important that women continue to support each other and we speak up about inequity. Sad to say, so many of the issues that I brought to the attention of the public in my early 20s are still the same in my early 60s. We need to be the change we want to see. Empower each other!

  4. Jackie Harder

    My mom went back to work when I was 14. I was the oldest; my baby sister, the youngest, was 2 and my brothers in between. I resented the hell out of Mom going back to work, leaving us — me! — to should her responsibilities. It wasn’t until I grew up that I understood that she had to do it, for herself, her independence, her self-esteem. Just like you, being the wife and mother were not enough for her. Not that she loved us any less.

    It’s really sad, when you do the research and learn that as late as the 1940s, it was illegal for married women to teach…the lawmakers (men) believed that women should be at home, tending to their husbands, homes and families.

    I could go on for a very long time about the needs for economic equity for women, for the necessity of speaking up for themselves, for asking for what they want and deserve…but I’ll cut it short! Thanks for telling your story — so important to hear from women who have been there.

  5. Rachel Lavern

    Regrettably, I did not promote International Women’s Day as much as I would have liked because I was travelling. We’ve come on long way but still have a long way to go.

  6. Tandy Elisala

    Great article for International Women’s Day, Cathy! I feel fortunate that my parents raised me to believe that I could do anything I wanted. They modeled this behavior growing up. My mom worked outside the home and spent time staying home to raise me and my sister. My dad always worked outside the home in the USAF and in the private sector. I’ve certainly experienced harassment and inequities in corporate America but I’m SO glad I’m outta there!

  7. Claudette Chenevert

    Cathy, you and I have had similar upbringings. My mom stayed at home to raise us four girls while my dad went away a lot for his work.
    That’s where our similarities end. My parents didn’t encourage us to pursue further education than high school. If you could read and count, that’s all that mattered.
    They figured that as a woman, you’d find yourself a nice husband who would take care of you.
    Well I was the rebel. I went to college and paid out of my own earnings, then started my hair salon business, designed and built my house all by the age of 25.
    I was the only one who moved away and then again to the States. To this day, I’m still seen as the rebel.
    And that’s fine for I much prefer to be a woman that lives according to her dreams than outdated expectations that don’t serve me at all.
    I’m very proud of my stepdaughters, my daughter-in-law and granddaughters who voice their opinions, are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in and live their lives the way they want to live it.
    And I’m behind them 100%.


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